Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Champions League: Liverpool edged Madrid at the Bernabeu

Powerful yet doubtful Liverpool stunned Real Madrid 1–0 in front of 85,000 supporters at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid on Wednesday.

In fact, the Liverpool goal was scored for an ulmots unknow player: Yossi Benayoun headed in the ball at the 82nd minute.

"He’s not the tallest," explained Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez in a post-match statement. "As you can see, he’s very clever."

Liverpool managed to stifle the high-flying squad in white despite losing star forward Fernando Torres to an ankle injury after the hour mark and not using inspirational captain Steven Gerrard until the 88th minute.

Indeed, it was a typical Liverpool Champions League performance. One could sense, the Reds would’ve been quite content with a draw and as such, the clash began relatively quietly.

Liverpool waited for its chances and soaked up Real Madrid pressure. The longer the clash remained scoreless, the more restless the Real Madrid supporters felt and the more nervous their players became.

Dutch winger Arjen Robber was Real’s main threat. He created scoring opportunities by cutting in from the right wing and firing long blasts at the Liverpool goal.

The midfield featured a great battle between Real’s Fernando Gago and Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano. Both were guilty of bad fouls and received yellow cards for their efforts.

Xabi Alonso, who attempted to provide some creativity in Liverpool’s midfield, had a long blast from mid-field tipped over the bar by Real keeper Iker Casillas.

In the 82nd minute, the talented Dirk Kuyt was pulled down by former Manchester United left back Gabriel Heinze and Liverpool was awarded with a free kick. Fabio Aurelio curled in a left-footer, which Benayoun headed in past keeper Casillas.

With the away goal in the bank, Liverpool closed out the clash and is in excellent shape for the re-match at Anfield on March 10.

"I was very pleased with the squad defending," continued Benitez. "Madrid had a lot of confidence. We had to work very hard."

"Maybe the only disappointment was the injury to Torres. He twisted his ankle. You could see he was not fully fit" stated Benitez.